If you haven’t gotten enough of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, writer Damon Lindelof recently shed new light on the film’s viral marketing campaign, why he responds to negative tweets about the film, and the influence of social media on opening weekends in a recently published piece at The Wall Street Journal.
The screenwriter talks a lot about social medial in the interview, particularly the viral videos that launched in the weeks before Prometheus’ debut. In a really interesting bit of insider information, Lindelof reveals that the “Quiet Eye” clip featuring Noomi Rapace was actually just the actress’ screen test for Fox.
"Noomi [Rapace] had screen tested to play Shaw. I wrote this page and a half video message that she sends to Peter Weyland that was not going to be in the movie. It was just an audition to sell Noomi to Fox. Ridley shot her in film, and had her in full costume and makeup. When I saw her screen test, I was like 'This is great viral content.'"
He then adds that the inspiration for the Michael Fassbender “David 8” clip came from the proliferation of iPad ads and that the Guy Pearce TED talk came about because Lindelof himself is a huge fan of the real TED talk events.
Lindelof goes on to share his philosophy about creating compelling viral content. “I think any viral that goes beyond three or four minutes, if you can’t watch the whole thing while you’re waiting for your latte at Starbucks, it defeats the purpose.” He also reveals that he didn’t get paid extra for writing the bits, but adds he might work toward getting pay bumps for viral material in the future.
Lindelof is an active member of the Twitter community, and unlike some famous folks (who use the service solely as a virtual soapbox to promote their projects), he actually interacts with fans. If you ask a good question about the film, odds are you’ll get a response – particularly if it’s negative but insightful.
"I am amused if somebody says something cleverly negative about it. The mean negatives, there is nothing pleasant about that experience whatsoever for me. I try to not address it unless it’s so horrible that I feel the need to tell everybody who follows me, 'Just so you know, there are people out there who say this.' If somebody says something positive it’s something I want to keep to myself."
Finally, the conversation drifts to the power of Twitter to influence opening-weekend box office – something dubbed “The Bruno Effect” in relation to how it influenced the opening numbers of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat follow-up. Lindelof takes a philosophical approach to it.
"I would say word of mouth is important. For a movie like Prometheus or Spider-Man or anything that has a very impassioned fan base, people who really need to see that movie are going to see it in the first two days. Prometheus did really well during Thursday midnight showings and then again on Friday. Weeks before it opened Fox had said, 'There’s going to be a drop off, because it’s a rated-R movie and the fans are going to turn out early." Do I feel like if the movie had 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and the word of mouth had been extraordinary that the Saturday and Sunday numbers would have been higher? Sure. Any time people are saying 'Oh my god you’ve got to go see this thing!' There might have been people who were on the fence and they’ll go to Twitter to see if they should see Prometheus or not. The great thing about Twitter is you appoint your Supreme Court of tastemakers. They’ll either go thumbs up or thumbs down, and that’s going to color the decisions you make in your life."
Be sure to check out the full interview at The Wall Street Journal for more insight from Lindelof, including how he deals with fans who nitpick every detail, his thoughts on weekend box-office tracking, and more.